Did you know former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was a novelist? I didn’t either – until I read The Last Lion, a biography written by William Manchester.
As a child Churchill was neither a writer nor a reader. Having endured the grueling experience of abusive schoolmasters in his boarding school, he was not what you would call a promising student. However as he approached adulthood things began to change for him.
Enamored with the Written Word
Serving in the Queen’s army in India, he suddenly became enamored with the written word.
He found that he had “a liking for words and for the feel of words fitting and falling into their places like pennies in the slot…”
In the winter of 1896, as he approached his twenty-second birthday, he “resolved to read history, philosophy, economics, and things like that; and I wrote to my mother asking for such books…” (The Last Lion pgs. 242-3)
And so at the age of 22, Churchill began to read voraciously. It would be a short leap from there to his embarking upon writing works of his own. Among other writings he began a novel in 1897 entitled, Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania. It was first serialized, then published as a book in 1900. It was his only novel.
I find it fascinating that this man who was first and foremost a politician, a man who was instrumental in winning WWII, felt he had to try his hand at being a novelist.
Supported by His Writing
While most authors throughout history have tried to find work to support their writing, Churchill on the other hand, used income from his writing to support his deep longing to be in political office. Interestingly, book advances and royalties paid for a number of his political campaigns through the years.
When one thinks about Churchill, writer and novelists are not two terms that come readily to mind. But his love for written word became a high passion in his life, which then led to his becoming a great orator. And the world benefitted as well.
And so Winston Churchill’s “liking for words and the feel of words fitting and falling into their places like pennies in the slot…” served him well for the remaining years of his life.
Isn’t it great to know that we novelists have such impressive roots? By the legacies they leave, our forebears cheer us on!
Photo: Winston Churchill, 1941 photo by Yousuf Karsh